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Moscow is dissatisfied with the raw material orientation of Russian exports to Finland
Alexander Yakovenko, an official spokesman of the Russian Federation's foreign ministry (MID), expressed this opinion in an interview to RIA Novosti. "We cannot be satisfied with the primarily raw material orientation of Russian exports (over 80%) [to Finland]," Yakovenko said. Underlining a positive practical character of our bilateral economic relations, Yakovenko said that, according to the results of the first six months of this year, Russia is Finland's third largest trading partner, while Finland is Russia's sixth largest partner in trade with western countries. According to his data, in 2003 the two countries' trade amounted to 7.63 billion euros, given a stable tendency towards growth and Russia's export surplus of 890 million euros. Yakovenko outlined prospects for intensifying relations in the investment sphere and stressed the importance of creating imports-replacing production in Russia with the Finnish capital's participation. It is worth noting that as regards the volume of accumulated investments - over $1 billion - Finland is among major investors in the Russian economy. "This level, however, does not fully conform to the potential of Russian-Finnish relations," Yakovenko said. Moscow expects practical results from the Scandinavian business forum held in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia) on October 12-13, 2004, and the forthcoming Russian-Finnish conference on cooperation in the lumber industry complex due to be held in Helsinki on October 26. Valery Roshchupkin, chief of the Federal Forest Husbandry Agency, deems it necessary to involve Finnish lumberers in high-level timber processing in Russia. He made a statement to this effect at a press-conference at RIA Novosti held Friday and devoted to the forthcoming conference in Helsinki. "We believe a shift should be made towards Finnish lumberers' more intensive transfer to the Russian territory with their production," Roshchupkin said. In his words, Finland meets 20% of its timber requirements by Russian raw timber. Roshchupkin believes that it is necessary to create new conditions for attracting Finnish companies to start high-level timber processing in Russia, not just buy Russian raw materials at low prices. "Some preferences should be provided for companies engaged in high-level timber processing in Russia," Roshchupkin stressed. He also pointed out that the new Forest Code of Russia which takes due account of this issue would be adopted in March-April 2005. In Roshchupkin's words, the Helsinki conference will also examine the problem of illegal wood-felling. According to the data of the Federal Forest Husbandry Agency, illegal wood-felling accounts for 5% of the 130 million cubic metres of annually harvested wood (according to the data of Russian public organisations, illegal timber turnover accounts for 20% of the total). "We have information that some Russian organisations supply illegally felled wood to Finnish official organisations," Roshchupkin said. He stressed that "both sides must always be held responsible; not only the side which illegally felled wood, but also that one which purchased it." Roshchupkin underlined that uniform criteria were necessary for assessing illegal wood-felling. "What is regarded as illegal wood-felling in Russia, may not be considered as such in some other countries. Therefore, uniform assessment criteria are needed," Roshchupkin added. In his words, in September 2005, Russia will host an international conference for fighting illegal wood-felling. "We intend to raise the issue of the two sides' responsibility - of the sellers and buyers," Roshchupkin stressed in conclusion
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